SOI’s maturing Artist-at-Sea program is receiving global recognition and has become a model emulated by others, including the ArtBerth Collective. We welcomed a record number of applications this year, and have now hosted a total of 21 artists on Falkor. The artists’ participation on science expeditions resulted in truly unique pieces that capture the innovative research being conducted.

Artist-at-Sea Fernanda Oyarzun works on sculpting clay aboard R/V Falkor while on the "New Approaches to Autonomous Exploration" expedition.
Artist-at-Sea Adam Swanson paints artwork in the wet lab, where he converse with the science team while seeing the research happening firsthand.

This was exemplified by artist participants such as Lily Simonson, who used ROV SuBastian’s manipulator arm to paint dramatic hydrothermal landscapes, and Fernanda Oyarzun who sculpted scientists’ hands with clay collected from the ocean floor, 1,740 meters below the sea surface. Another artist, Jessica Orfe, created a series of 15 watercolor paintings representing microbes collected at each station during the 2018 “Microbial Mysteries” expedition. The imaginative designs were painted using scientific instruments as stencils to mimic the shapes of microscopic life forms that form the basis of marine ecosystems. Jessica also created an adult coloring book, Microbial Mysteries: In Situ in the OMZ, giving a behind-the-scenes look into a research expedition. The first ever Artist-at-Sea expedition was completed this past July, bringing six unique artists on Falkor during a transit with mapping, allowing them to work with and incorporate the multibeam data collected on the trip.

Sarah Caudle built up and sculpted layers resembling the valleys and ridges of the ocean floor before carefully painting its depths and pouring resin and acrylic as an "ocean" layer.

Artists included Sarah Caudle, a jewelry designer who works with epoxy beachscapes; Lori Hepner, a performance artist who showcases LED movement with data streams; Lauren Salm, a portrait artist; Rebecca Welti, a sculptor; as well as artist and student Lizzy Taber, who worked with cyanotype prints and pastel color studies. A commemorative mural of our 2014 discovery of the world’s deepest fish was made by Roger Peet and unveiled during Falkor’s stopover in San Francisco.

The Artist-at-Sea exhibit continues to travel across the country, and has now been displayed in 14 different locations across 10 different cities. The artwork totaling more than one hundred pieces was displayed at several large meetings and public centers, often accompanying special events and interactions. For example, in February cartoonist Lucy Bellwood signed copies of her multibeam mapping comic at the Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland, Oregon. SOI cofounder Wendy Schmidt gave a public lecture and welcome remarks in March to open the three-month long exhibit at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. In September, the art was displayed at the Exploratorium as part of the welcoming events for Falkor, and was then put on view at the NOAA All Hands on Deck forum at the MIT Media Lab in November. The exhibit can also be seen online at SOI’s gallery website.

PI Susan Merle smiles while standing in a projection of Artist-at-Sea Lori Hepner's light paintings based on the data collected by Susan and her team on R/V Falkor during the "Seeping Cascadia Margin" expedition.
An exhibition of Artist-At-Sea work on display at the "All Hands On Deck" conference held at the MIT Media Lab in Boston.
An exhibit at the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center called "Science at Sea" displayed artwork from the Artist-at-Sea program.

I have dedicated my career to painting creatures from the most remote depths of the ocean that never would have been discovered without submersibles like SuBastian. These deep-sea vehicles have brought countless muses into my world, and in that way, they occupy an almost mythological status in my mind. Creating a painting with such a legendary machine was the experience of a lifetime.

          — Lily Simonson, Artist-at-Sea.

Artist-at-Sea Lily Simonson manipulates the controls of ROV Subastian to create an original painting on the aft deck of R/V Falkor.